A HUGE thank you to all who joined us at Chefs Night Out at Willamette Valley Vineyards last Sunday afternoon, October 2. Salem’s annual benefit for the Polk-Marion Foodbank was nicely attended and 17 food vendors and an equal number of wineries and breweries were there to feed the hungry masses and the slake their thirst with some of the best our Valley has to offer.
Willabys was represented by Pedro Romero and myself serving up Little Corn Pancakes topped with Black Bean/Corn Salsa and garnished with a tiny dollop of Roasted Green Chile/Cilantro Cream. We had wanted to feature some “last of the season” produce and since the local Willamette Valley corn has been SO sweet this year, it was a natural. We grilled off 144 ears of corn and turned them into a delicious citrusy salsa and some very tasty (and very corny!!) little griddle cakes.
Sunday morning we returned to our prep kitchens after a Saturday night of doing two wedding receptions simultaneously (again at Willamette Valley Vineyards) for 66 and 125 (it’s all in the organization, folks) and got right back to it. After putting out some hor’s d’oeuvres platters and sandwiches for 30 we set to cutting the corn off all those nicely grilled cobs and assembling our salsa and pancake batter. Sweet grilled corn seemed to be flying everywhere as we took our knives to those grill-blackened cobs.
Once the salsa was made and the batter folded together with the cornmeal, yogurt and egg whites (secret ingredients!!), Pedro and I settled over the hot griddles and cooked off 850 of our little pancakes. It took us nearly two and a half hours, but was yes, a labor of love. We packed the ‘cakes into insulated boxes and bowled up our salsa. Adam, who had roasted the chiles and chopped the cilantro, had pureed them both with sour cream and syphoned them into handy squirt bottles. We packed the van and we were off.
We settled into our beautifully decorated table (Thanks, Sue!!!) in one corner of the tent and got to assembling our tasty treats. All around us chefs were heating, chopping and saucing and the clink and clank of wine bottles filled the room. We were so grateful that we had done the major share of our work back at the prep kitchen. At 3:00 the first shuttle buses from the bottom of the hill would deposit the Early Arrivals (the first hour was for special donees and other VIPs) and everyone wanted to be ready.
The first hour passed smoothly and we had plenty of time to talk to our guests and eaters. But from 4-6:0o Pedro and I were inundated with curious and hungry (not to mention thirsty) eaters and drinkers. The guitarist in the opposite corner strummed away, the bottles and glasses sloshed and our supply of 850 pancakes fairly flew out over the table. It was a festive and happy way to spend a Sunday afternoon and we got plenty of comments and compliments on how good and how different our little pancakes were.
And by 7:00 our supplies were nearly gone (good planning), the crowd had dwindled to a few stragglers, and the wine had been poured. Pedro and I splashed out the raindrops with our empty platters and pointed our van down the hill. It had been an amazing and fast paced afternoon and we felt great about how our part of it had gone. Cooking and serving for a cause such as this can’t help but make you feel good. Thank you again to everyone who made this year’s Chefs Night Out a raging success!!!